Aurora Pens
Aurora Pens

I got to spend the final day of the SF Pen Show being a legitimate visitor, shopper and participant which was a pleasure. I was able to wake up a little later than usual, chat with friends and visit with vendors and sellers. Several of us were a little hung over too so a slow start was nice. Shhh… can everyone talk a little quieter? Thanks. Those Aurora pens are so lovely in the morning light of the atrium.

Vanness Pens Wall of Ink
Vanness Pens Wall of Ink

The best thing about shopping on a Sunday is that the pace is slower. Most vendors made their money on Saturday so there’s a genuine feeling of relief on Sunday. If they make money on Sunday that’s great but the busiest part is over and Sunday is gravy. For shoppers, its not as crowded and most folks are making their second, third or 12th pass over the tables seeing if they missed something or if something they saw earlier in the weekend is still there. Or if maybe a vintage seller might be willing to make a deal on Sunday if its still there. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t. And sometimes its a chance to try a new style or type of pen because sellers are not as busy and have more time to talk through a filling system or brand of pen you might not be as familiar with.

I like Sundays at shows. Its a more familial environment by that time as everyone starts to recognize each other but there’s a bit of melancholy too as you know it will all be ending soon and it will be time to pack it all up and go home.

My favorite pen show clown, Mr. Brad Dowdy
My favorite pen show clown, Mr. Brad Dowdy

And then you get goofy, fun moments like this and they remind me why I love pen shows and pen people so much. I got expressions like this from lots of people, I just didn’t have my camera out for them. Who loves ink and pens? WE DO!

The amazing aisle of ink testers
The amazing aisle of ink testers

Even on Sunday, the ink testing station was still busy and pens still had ink. There were some folks who were disappointed that not all inks were available for sale at the show but I think it was hard for the organizers to know which inks were limited edition, discontinued and be able to provide a list to vendors to be able to cross reference. The whole thing is pretty epic. Any way you slice it, the chance to try all those inks, discontinued, rare or easily available is awesome and worth the price of admission right there. I know how much work it was to clean and fill all those pens and I tip my hat to the folks who put in nights and weeks to filling all 600+.

Peter Pan fountain pens with one Pelikan stuck in the middle for scale
Peter Pan fountain pens with one Pelikan stuck in the middle for scale

I loved seeing this tray of Peter Pan fountain pens. The vintage dealer selling them kindly let me rearrange his display to put a Pelikan in the middle for scale for my photograph. Pretty amazing, huh? And most of them had flexible 14K nibs too. Swoon.

The amazing and ever-dapper Michael Sull, Spencerian callirgrapher extraordinaire.
The amazing and ever-dapper Michael Sull, Spencerian calligrapher extraordinaire.

Once again, Mr. Michael Sull was amazing. Kind, generous, dapper and epically talented. Watching him work is mesmerizing. Like those ice skaters who spin and jump so effortlessly, he makes Spencerian look so easy and effortless. Then I pick up a pen and I feel like I’m all thumbs — or toes or something.

Actual oak galls
Actual oak galls

I met Greg Weddig who got a wild hair to make his own iron gall ink because he found oak galls on the trees near his house. I had no idea that galls were things that grew on trees but I’ll go into more details when I write a more detailed review about the ink. How cool is this?!? Its dip pen ink only but Michael Sull has taken a shining to it so, of course, I had to buy a bottle. I’m hoping it will imbue some Sull Spencerian magic on me. Think it will work?

Testing the iron gall ink from Greg Weddig, AKA Hugo's Writing Supplies
Testing the iron gall ink from Greg Weddig, AKA Hugo’s Writing Supplies
Writing a letter at the Letter Writing Social
Writing a letter at the Letter Writing Social

In the afternoon, Amanda McKay hosted a letter writing social which she called the “anti-social social” as we all settled in to quiet contemplation with our paper and pens and envelopes. Amanda provided lovely stationery, postcards and envelopes plus stickers, hand cut rubber stamps and stamp pads for folks to use. She even had a pile of pens so you really didn’t need to bring anything but your address book.

It was a lovely break in the day, dotted with occasional conversation and pen, ink and tool swapping, and I hope that it is an event that will be added to the dockets of other pen shows.

Juliavdw worked on some watercolors for a traveling sketchbook at the letter writing social.
Juliavdw worked on some watercolors for a traveling sketchbook at the letter writing social.
The darling Joanna working on a letter as the Letter Writing Social hosted by Amanda McKay, AKA LetterLetter.com
The darling Joanna working on a letter as the Letter Writing Social hosted by Amanda McKay, AKA LetterLetter.com

After the social, there was just an hour of shopping time left before the boxes and crates came out and the vendors had to pack everything back up and load up the vans and head home. I wrapped up my ridiculous quantities of ink and crossed my fingers hoping that Southwest Airlines will deliver them to KC without any damage. Cross your fingers for me too because I finally got a bottle of KWZ Honey and I want to review it this week. You want that too, right? Collective finger crossing starts now!

Brady Dowdy, Mike Vanness and Matt Armstrong packing up the Vanness Pens booth as the show winds down
Brady Dowdy, Mike Vanness and Matt Armstrong packing up the Vanness Pens booth as the show winds down

Boarding my plane in ten minutes and will be back to real life soon. Miss all the folks I met in SF already and I look forward to chatting with everyone online — both those who didn’t get to a show yet and those I’ve met this year.

xoxo, Ana

10 Comments on SF Pen Show: Day 3 and Wrap-Up

  1. Who was responsible for those ink testing stations? Vanness had one at Atlanta but I’ve counted more than 6 in the photos I’ve seen online.

    • The organizers of the SF Pen Show set up the ink testing stations. They actually loaned out one of the stations to Atlanta and DC, I believe. They are really amazing and the folks in SF did a great job setting them up. We did discover that the shimmer inks didn’t fare too well in the dollar pens that were used because folks didn’t know to shake or roll them to mix up the particles so they got clogged almost immediately. Otherwise, the stations were a huge hit.

      • This is Ricky and I’m the mastermind behind the ink testing station. It started with the desire to have ink testing at the 2015 show. At a Pen Posse, our member Gale had just returned from Japan and talked about the Iroshizuku testing stations at stationery stores in Japan. I had seen these when the Iroshizuku inks were first introduced circa 2009. So I came up with the idea to make testing stations. I took inspiration for the design from the Fi high end tube audio gear made by Don Garber. The second piece fell into place when we were at a special Pen Posse at the Mont Blanc store in SF. A member was returning to Pakistan and knew the distributor of Dollar pens. We worked out a deal for a huge quantity of these pens. Thus the ink testing stations were born. The current ones are the MK. II stations that hold 49 pens. The Mk. I versions held 100 but were cruder and too large to handle. I made 18 of the Mk. II stations. Unit one now belongs to Vanness. The other 17 we are keeping for use for the show.

    • There were 14 sample/testing stations + 1 station for just black inks, total 15 stations. Each station holds 49 pens. So 686 inks + 49 black inks.

      The black ink station was for a “vote for your favorite black ink,” blind test.

      One of the SF Pen Show organizer had the ink test stations custom built.

      These are the version 2 of the ink test stations.
      Version 1 held 100 pens, and there were 5 of those stations at the 2015 SF Pen Show, for 500 inks.

  2. Excellent write-up of the SF pen show. I wanted to go and so I really appreciated your photos and descriptions. The wall of ink shot is one of the best show shots ever, showing wares and excited people. Love the Peter Pan pens with the Pelikan for size. I’ll be following your blog for more show and tell. Thanks!

  3. Hi Ana!

    Thank you for your awesome SF Pen Show Day 1-3 write-up. This show has been a very fun one and I’m glad you were able to go

    That Peter Pan pen comparison was hilarious! =) I have one and I wish I saw that to compare with mine. Was that at the Pendemonium table?

    It was a pleasure to meet you and hang out afterwards. See you soon at future shows!

  4. It’s been so great to read up on the SF and DC penshows on your site, thanks for your write up’s/reviews! That ink station looks so awesome, I could have spent a whole day just trying those out! I’m looking forward to the Tilburg Penshow in september, but it’s no way near as epic as US penshow, but we make do 😉

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